New Ford CEO Jim Hackett unveiled his first detailed plan for the future of the vehicle maker Tuesday. He talked less about design thinking, the subject of my recent profile about him, and more about new priorities, including electric and autonomous vehicles as well as SUVs and trucks.
Design thinking is a product-management philosophy that its proponents refer to as human-centered, and it is particularly popular in Silicon Valley. Hackett’s public plans, on the other hand, reflect good old-fashioned strategic planning and an acknowledgment that Ford’s market is shifting. He said the company needs to de-emphasize increasingly less popular passenger cars, especially the kind that burn gasoline, and focus more on electric vehicles and wildly popular vehicles that hold stuff in addition to people.
Consistent with the themes Hackett has pursued in his short tenure at Ford, including his pre-CEO stint running the company’s “smart mobility” (aka alternative revenue source) unit, Hackett emphasized so-called connected cars. Should Ford succeed in equipping all its cars with information that gets communicated back to its servers, it will become a “big data” company, a beyond-vehicles opportunity that is as promising as it is murky.
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Incidentally, if you read one article about the future of the global automotive industry, make it The Wall Street Journal’s compelling narrative about China’s efforts to create an electric car market by fiat. (I mean that in the sense of official order, not the Italian carmaker; Also, if you read yesterday’s column you’ll understand why I link unapologetically to articles that require subscriptions.) China’s mandate might end up as one of the greatest “student body left” commercial and industrial calls of all time. (For the uninformed, I apologize for mixing football and policy metaphors.) It’s yet another example of the grand experiment happening before our eyes in the world’s second largest economy.
Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel from 2005 to 2013, died Tuesday. He was the first and only non-engineer to lead the company, a fact reflected in the endearing statement from current Intel CEO Brian Krzanich: “He was the relentless voice of the customer in a sea of engineers, and he taught us that we only win when we put the customer first.”
I profiled Otellini when he first became CEO. A native San Franciscan, he was a relatively guarded and quiet business executive, certainly compared to his larger-than-life mentor, Andy Grove. As his tenure drew to a close he candidly acknowledged that Intel had missed a critical shift to smartphones. He was 66 and had kept a low profile since retiring from Intel.
Outmaneuvered. Uber directors on Tuesday voted to expand the board and make other changes to dilute the power of former CEO and still shareholder Travis Kalanick. At the same time, a group of investors including SoftBank will buy up to $1.25 billion of new Uber shares at a valuation of $69 billion and up to 17% of existing stock from prior investors at a discount. More good news came from the courtroom of U.S. District Judge William Alsup. In delaying the start of the trial over Waymo’s charges of stolen trade secrets, Alsup indicated he’d seen no evidence that Uber copied any of Waymo’s technology.
For what it’s worth. Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith appeared before Congress on Tuesday and repeatedly apologized for the data breach at his company that exposed personal data from 145 million consumers. Smith admitted that the Department of Homeland Security warned Equifax about a security weakness in March but the company did nothing. The personal data disaster is prompting the Trump administration to rethink the use of social security numbers. “I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,” White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said at a conference on Tuesday. What people really should have is a “modern cryptographic identifier,” he suggested.
Shiny new things. Google holds what’s becoming an annual hardware unveiling event today in San Francisco starting at noon Eastern Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Time. Expected new devices include the Pixel 2 smartphone, a mini version of the Google Home speaker/digital assistant, an updated Chromebook Pixel laptop, and possibly a new version of the Daydream VR headset. You can follow along live on YouTube.
Nice exit. New York startup Body Labs got bought by Amazon, Techcrunch reported. The company creates virtual 3D body models that can be added to shopping apps to help customers see how an item of clothing might fit, for example. Amazon rival Walmart was also fishing in the Big Apple’s startup waters this week, grabbing Brooklyn-based delivery service Parcel.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
They can be clever or cute, and occasionally annoying, but there is no denying the popularity of the mini movie images known as GIFs that people love to paste into messaging apps, Twitter posts and anywhere else they’re allowed (even this newsletter sometimes). A ton of the images originate from one company: Giphy. Nicole Laporte at Fast Company has a profile of the supplier of GIFs seen by 300 million people a day. Cofounder and CEO Alex Chung thinks Giphy may be poised to dominate advertising in the short video-esque segments:
“Everyone is moving to the six-second ad format,” he says. “YouTube has done it. Facebook is doing it. We’ve owned that format for years. We have all the tools to make it. We have the largest distribution of that six-second content anywhere in the world—across mobile, desktop, anywhere.” Perhaps most important, Giphy has commercials that look nothing like advertising. “If it’s good,” says COO Adam Leibsohn, “it’s stuff that people want to use—to communicate, to laugh, to inform.”
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